Questions About the RPCNA

Discussion in 'General discussions' started by Knecht Christi, Sep 2, 2019.

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  1. Knecht Christi

    Knecht Christi Puritan Board Freshman

    Hello everyone,

    I am considering joining an RPCNA church plant (currently a member in the OPC), and have some questions regarding the state of the denomination.

    I have got the impression that, outside of exclusive psalmnody and non-instrumentation, the RPCNA seems to be less conservative than the OPC, particularly with regards to feminism, as the emphasis seems to be empowerment and a reductionistic view of biblical roles between the sexes expressing itself most prominently, but not exclusively, in female deacons, as well as not using wine in communion. Is this impression correct? If so, what direction are things heading?

    Also, how prevalent is headcovering by the women in the denomination? Is there a movement back to the original Westminster Standards? What is the denomination´s involvement in foreign missions?

    Can someone also speak to other weaknesses and strengths of the denomination?

    Being a bit more open-ended, what would those of you with similar convictions (EP, original Westminster Standards, headcovering, covenanting) recommend?

    I am not trying to give the impression that I am unwilling to compromise, as I quietly do in my beloved OPC congregation, but am seeking to get the best information I can to inform my decision.

  2. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    As an FCC guy with close ties to an RP work nearby, I would say that most of the questions you asked are very open-ended in the RPCNA. Many younger folks coming into the denomination are causing it to move in a more classically Reformed direction, but that hasn't been without opposition from folks who like things the way they are.

    My advice would be:
    1. Get to know the leadership at the plant. What direction are they headed in?

    2. Look over the RPCNA membership vows. Can you take them in good conscience?

    3. Consider that you might be a help in moving the RPCNA in a better direction. There are a lot of good men in the RPCNA, and many believe things are moving in a good direction.
  3. arapahoepark

    arapahoepark Puritan Board Graduate

  4. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    Hi Josh,
    I’m a member of the Birmingham RP plant. Tyler’s advice and observations are spot on. I would encourage you, after considering and investigating his points 1 and 2, to consider point 3. There is a great work to be done and it will take praying members and ministers who are united in praying and laboring for reformation. I’ll try to get some more detailed information on the Portland plant for you.
  5. Knecht Christi

    Knecht Christi Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks for that advice Tyler, I will definitely ask a lot of questions to try to see what direction the particular plant may be heading. Regarding the membership vows, it is my understanding that even ordained men in the RPCNA are permitted to object to the Testimony where it disagrees with the original Westminster Standards. As long as this is true, I believe the vows would not be a problem for me.

    Regarding your third point, I absolutely would love to help a denomination with such a rich history here in North America to reclaim some of its early strength.
  6. Knecht Christi

    Knecht Christi Puritan Board Freshman

  7. Knecht Christi

    Knecht Christi Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks Jeri, I am encouraged to hear that, I would love to get some more info!
  8. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    Josh, the Portland RP plant is no longer. There is one in Seattle, a goodly drive for you.
  9. Knecht Christi

    Knecht Christi Puritan Board Freshman

    I am aware of the Seattle RP, their pastor and one of their elders are actually coming down to Portland tomorrow to holding a meeting with those of us who have expressed interest, regarding a new church plant in Portland! I am not sure if it will even be a reality, but should know a lot more by the end of tomorrow.
  10. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    Ah, very interesting. May I private message you with some more detailed info I have?
  11. Reformed Bookworm

    Reformed Bookworm Puritan Board Junior

    My wife and I are currently members of the PCA and have wanted to leave for some time now. We have worshipped with a local RPCNA congregation quite a bit. They are some of the most earnest believers we have been blessed to meet. Their pastor has preached some of the finest sermons that we have sat under. He is quite powerful behind the pulpit. The women in their congregation predominantly wear head coverings. They are very dedicated to the Westminster Standards. We are still visiting congregations to narrow down our options as Grand Rapids is blessed with having a plethora of Reformed congregations. I had some of the same concerns as you before worshipping with this congregation.
  12. Knecht Christi

    Knecht Christi Puritan Board Freshman

    Wow, I am really encouraged to hear that! I have heard wonderful things about the RP in Grand Rapids. Thanks for sharing
  13. Knecht Christi

    Knecht Christi Puritan Board Freshman

    That would be great!
  14. Poimen

    Poimen Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    The RPCNA has had and likely still does have those within her ranks that would like to see that women take a more prominent role in the leadership of the church. That said, two ministers were recently removed from the denomination for promoting the appointment of women to the office of elder. I agree with Tyler, albeit from a somewhat limited vantage point, that the tide is against this

    According to the RP testimony, women may serve as deacons and so you will encounter congregations that have the gentler sex filling that role but this is more generally due to the desire to obey what they believe scripture to teach than to promote worldly feminism. However many men, such as myself, take exception to the testimony at this point.

    As for wine in communion, the contents of the cup are left up to the individual session to decide so you will see a variety of practices. It seems to me that the wine only would be a minority position. As to the direction it is difficult to say, though I know a number of men who would be comfortable only using wine and that number may be growing.

    It is not prevalent. Most congregations I have attended or preached at my wife and daughter are in the minority. But should you be married and have a wife that covers, I don't see it being a stumbling block to others, nor should it cause a rift in the congregation.

    Recommend denomination wise or recommend how to live in the RPCNA with such convictions?

    If the latter, I am one of those and I try to live alongside my brothers and sisters as best as I can with such convictions. I see myself as being an example to them in these things while they are an example to me in other matters. Sometimes one gets frustrated because there are those who are comfortable with the ways things are (or have always been) but then we would need to graciously and lovingly point out a better way and live it out as consistently as possible, with as much grace and fruit of the spirit as possible. And I admonish myself when I write these things.

    One does not need to compromise so much as to think about how their convictions will make them useful to the Lord and to their brethren.
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2019
  15. Jake

    Jake Puritan Board Junior

    A few comments on some stuff that hasn't been addressed:
    • The article Trent posted on the role of women in the RPCNA is excellent. I also recommend "History of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America 1871-1920" by William Edgar (I've not yet read this, but I've heard good praise for it) and "Founding Sins: How a Group of Antislavery Radicals Fought to Put Christ into the Constitution" by Joseph S. Moore (I have read this and it's excellent; it does also look a bit at the ARP Church as well). The former book is from an RP minister and the latter is from a secular historian; both have been published recently and seem factual.
    • Foreign missions: the RP church has long had many missionary interests. I know as a former member of the OPC I was very impressed by the extent to which and the wisdom with which foreign missions were approached, but I think the RPCNA also does a good job despite its small size. I believe the current primary works are in Japan (the RPCNA has a presbytery in Japan which there has been discussion of being its own denomination), South Sudan, Central Asia, and South Asia. I think the RPs in Australia, Scotland, and Ireland join together on these works with those in North America.
    • I'm not aware of any desire to shift back to the "bare" original Westminster Standards instead of the RP Testimony in the RPCNA, but the Testimony is a document that has continued to adapt and change, and I think in many ways it has changed for the better in the past few decades.
    • As far as other denominations, if you care about headcovering and the original Westminster Standards, you would probably feel at home in the FCC or the PRC. However, if you care about specifically Covenanter views (mediatorial kingship for example), you'll find these to be in the minority in the FCC or PRC. I'm not aware of another specifically Covenanter denomination in North America.
  16. kodos

    kodos Puritan Board Junior

    I am on the Home Mission Board of the denomination and have served as a ruling elder for about 4 years and am about to relocate to the denominational seminary (RPTS) to finish out my last year of Seminary. All that to say, I've observed the denomination first-hand for quite some time now, even as a "Gentile".

    If you are interested in a Presbytery that has many much more traditionally conservative minded folks, Pacific Presbytery is a good Presbytery for you (others are too, but particularly since you are in OR, that seems pertinent). You will find many friends and ministers with your views and the churches of that Presbytery are only heading in a very conservative direction. For instance, I believe Phoenix RP just instituted a common cup for communion with wine around the table. But most important to me anyhow is the fact that all our churches only sing the 150 psalms acapella and still highly regards the Sabbath Day.

    I think that overall, the denomination has been heading in a direction you would be happy with. Another church plant with members like you would continue to cement that trajectory.

    As far as headcoverings, we are about 50/50 at Dallas RPC -- we all get along just fine with everyone living peaceably with each other. I've not seen it to be contentious issue in the RP church thus far, though I'm sure examples might be found.

    Will be praying for Portland and your family.
  17. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    Maybe it’s just from my vantage point in our particular situation, but I do think I see a rising tide of young RP men, both in the ministry and among the membership, who desire a return to the old paths and this tends toward an embracing of things like the original WCF, headcovering, the preference of the received text, and so on. It’s a great privilege to pray for reformation and for the visible unity and uniformity of a Reformed church in the world, that the divisions and splits in Presbyterianism will be healed. This will require another extraordinary time and work of God, and extraordinary men raised up, and would be accompanied by great labor pangs. The internet and social media have provided a platform for an unprecedented interaction and exchange of ideas between men and women in the FCC, the RPCNA, the ARP, and other Reformed denominations. Just my thoughts.
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  18. Jake

    Jake Puritan Board Junior

    I should clarify, there are definitely many conservative men in the RPCNA who want to return it to its more RP identity. Certainly the RPCNA since its merger with the APC in 1969 in some ways more reflects the Associate over the Reformed view in many areas. The RPCNA has also gone through a lot of change in its relatively long history. However, from my following (mostly from afar) of the RPCNA I'm not aware of any action to do away with the RP Testimony; I've only heard this from individual members that they would prefer the original Westminster Standards.
  19. Susan777

    Susan777 Puritan Board Freshman

    These posts have given me comfort and joy. I’ve become so discouraged about the trajectory of the PCA that to hear there are young men seeking the old paths is just wonderful.
  20. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    It is wonderful. And @Jake I agree that as of now there is no action to change the testimony. All things that divide are a matter for prayer; that God will do extraordinary things in bringing about unity and uniformity in the visible church. Patience and prayer.
  21. bookslover

    bookslover Puritan Board Doctor

    What is it that's prompting you to leave the OPC? I'm just curious, as I've been in the OPC for 23 years and am quite satisfied with its theology, etc.
  22. Jake

    Jake Puritan Board Junior

    I was recently interacting with someone on-line who was at least twice my age and a part of another ARP Church that was bemoaning Psalm singing and lack of modern worship bands as scaring away the younger generations. I would point out that as a younger millennial who grew up in churches fully bought into "modern worship" (and in fact, even my late boomer parents grew up with the early CCM, Living Bible, youth groups, etc.), I find the Psalter and a simple liturgy refreshing (not to mention Biblically sound). While I can't speak for all of my generation, I've seen many of my peers growing up also move into more Reformed or more Liturgical churches stemming from dissatisfaction from entertainment-driven worship and lack of substance in teaching.
  23. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    I was wondering the same thing that Richard was. Have you discussed this desire with your Elders and have you received any guidance from them?
  24. RPEphesian

    RPEphesian Puritan Board Sophomore

    I've heard a similar sentiment expressed elsewhere too.
  25. Knecht Christi

    Knecht Christi Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks for the information and the exhortation Daniel!
  26. Knecht Christi

    Knecht Christi Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks for the info Jake, unfortunately the FCC and PRC are just not practical as I live on the West Coast, and have no plans to move at the moment (though that could change someday perhaps).
  27. Knecht Christi

    Knecht Christi Puritan Board Freshman

    That's great to hear! I have heard similar things before, continuing to pray for the denomination. Thank you, your prayers mean more than you know!
  28. Knecht Christi

    Knecht Christi Puritan Board Freshman

    I want to be careful here not to tear down the congregation, insinuate that I am looking for a perfect church, or claim that I am free from flaws, but here are some of my reasons:

    My convictions on psalm-singing and non-instrumentation. We don't sing many psalms in our congregation, and it wears on my soul to see the pollution of public worship with man-made songs and instruments week after week.

    It is also pretty discouraging to be one of the only people in my congregation that strives to keep the Sabbath. Some of the younger people were even mocking the fourth commandment (and somewhat me by association) on the Lord's Day a month ago (I did give an appropriate rebuke in response). The fact is, most of the people in the church do not believe in a reformed view of the Lord's Day (actions testify just as much as an alleged subscription to the confession).

    The preaching is also quite weak, particularly with regard to application. The current minister is more or less under the conviction that application is a matter for the Holy Spirit and not for the preacher. As a result I rarely feel convicted by the preaching (though I do try my best to meditate on the sermon and draw my own application as well as discuss with others). This affects a congregation over time in some very unhealthy ways. We don't want only a form of godliness, but the power of it as well.

    We are getting a new pastor in November, so some of these things could improve.

    When I met with the session for membership, I tried to be honest without being nitpicky, but I think they are aware that if a conservative RP church (or PRC or FCC for that matter) was planted in my area, that I would want to help with that work.

    I am doing all I can to be a blessing to this church, and to seek to build it up and spur on the other believers in love and good works, and will continue to do this as long as I am a member. I don't want to give the impression that I do not love this church, I do love the brothers and sisters there, but I am trying to do what is best for my soul and my (hopefully future) family.

    If the plant becomes more of a reality (it is not set in stone as of yet), I will certainly have some more conversations with the elders to seek their guidance.
  29. Knecht Christi

    Knecht Christi Puritan Board Freshman

    I appreciate that question/exhortation, see my above response.
  30. bookslover

    bookslover Puritan Board Doctor

    I hope you'll stay on at least long enough to see if the new pastor's preaching is an improvement, especially regarding application. I'm grateful for your sensitivity and honesty.
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